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Rosenstein: Social media companies need to self-regulate or government will take action

Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinGraham vows to push Trump’s AG pick through Judiciary Committee House GOP set to grill Comey McCabe, Rosenstein opened obstruction probe after Trump fired Comey, before Mueller was hired: report MORE on Thursday said social media companies need to protect their platforms from disinformation campaigns and properly police false or misleading content or they will face government regulation.

"I think the companies now do understand if they do not take it upon themselves to self-regulate — which is essentially the theme of my talk today — they will face the potential of government regulation," he said.

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Rosenstein's remarks come amid fears that Iran and other countries are looking to take a page from Russia's 2016 playbook and carry out sophisticated disinformation campaigns in the next presidential campaign.

There has been frustration in Washington with the efforts by Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to police their content. 

Rosenstein, speaking at the Cybercrime Symposium hosted by Georgetown Law, said the companies have the ability to take action.

"They do have the ability and the incentive to self-regulate in order to avoid the kind of hostile regulation that may impede their business models," he said.

Rosenstein said many of the companies are seeking to take action, saying they were "motivated" to prevent the use of their platforms to spread disinformation.

Rosenstein pushed back on critics that he says oppose the law enforcement community working with tech experts.

"Some technology experts castigate colleagues who engage with law enforcement to address encryption and similar challenges. Just because people are quick to criticize you does not mean that you are doing the wrong thing," Rosenstein said.

"Some in the tech community and academia have responded dismissively to the problem of law enforcement’s diminishing ability to collect evidence, claiming that law enforcement will find other ways of solving many crimes. But in many cases, we will not find other ways to solve crimes," he added.

The FBI has long argued that law enforcement should have the ability to pry open cellphones as a way of protecting domestic security, but tech companies and privacy advocates have resisted such efforts. They argue that it would lead to "back doors" that malicious hackers could tap into as well as infringe on an individual's privacy.

"Improvements in the ability to investigate crime and hold perpetrators accountable must match the pace at which technology is making crimes easier to commit and more destructive," Rosenstein said.